This first issue of 1981 gives us what could be a thief and his mark on a bridge. OR someone trying to get a toll from a beggar.
There some are cool ads for Ral Partha's Witch's Caldron and ICE. This predates my purchasing of Dragon so likely not an ad that influenced me.
There is an editorial from Jake Jaquet. Here he welcomes two new employees, Debbie Chiusano and Marilyn Mays. He also welcomes to more familiar names to full-time positions, Roger Moore and Ed Greenwood. He also mentions changes to Dragon such as updated typeface and more pages.
Kim Mohan follows with Cover to Cover to let us know what is happening in this issue.
Ad for Fantasy Modeling magazine featuring a Vallejo scantily clad woman with two lizard/dragon monsters.
Out on A Limb gives us some letters. One guy complains about all the new D&D groups springing up but no one plays it like "the old days" (which in his mind was 2.5 years ago). Another one wants Dragon to stop writing so much about D&D and focus instead on AD&D. There is no making people happy is there?
Our first article, Gas em Up and Smoke em Out is by Robert Plamondon. It is actually really useful. The article covers how smoke, gases and magical clouds move and fill up space. Granted, modern systems simplify this, but someone out there would it very useful. This followed up by Dungeon ventilation clears the air by the same author. How can you breathe in the dungeon depths? Again, really useful. Robert Plamondon is kinda an interesting guy. Author, farmer and has some game design credits. He can be found at http://www.plamondon.com/
Roger E. Moore is up for his fir "full time" paid articles and they are big ones. NPCs For Hire: One who predicts... ...And One Who Seeks the Perfect Mix. This gives us two NPC classes, the Astrologer and the Alchemist. The Astrologer is a pure NPC class, no XP or level advancement. It is a type of sage that can be used to predict the future. The Alchemist, written with Georgia Moore, is a bit more detailed.
Philip Meyers has an article on distributing magic-items to NPC groups in Magic Items for Everyman. Obviously great for OSR/Old-school games, it might also scale right to new games, though new games tend to have less magic items.
Up On A Soapbox gives us two articles about Role-Playing. Be a creative game-player by Kristan Wheaton discusses ways players should think more about their games and game playing style. This includes creative uses of levitate and fly. Ways to handle high-level headaches by Lewis Pulsipher is on the other side of the table with how DMs can deal with high-level characters.
Bazaar of the Bizzare is up. This had always been one of my favorite old Dragon features. This one gives us some subtle reminders that the 70s were not that far behind. Among the items are Pet Rocks from Roger Moore. There two kinds, normal and cursed. They look like rocks and seem very close to a Stone of Commanding Earth Elementals. On a command word they will attack an opponent. Damage is like throwing a rock, that is, if the rock was +3 to hit and did 2d6 points of damage.
There is one though that is pretty interesting. A Ring of Oak, which will allow a dryad to move away from her tree. Ruby Slippers do exactly what you think they do. I wish I had thought of these. Bell of Pavlov makes you drool.
Ah. Now here is a good one. Robert Plamondon is back with The Right Write Way to Get Published. It is a very solid read with timeless advice. English at this time was not my favorite subject and if you had told me in 1981 that I would be spending not just 90% of professional life writing, but most of my "free" time doing the same, I would have laughed. So naturally, I ignored articles like this back then. My mistake. In fact, this article has such solid advice I am tempted to keep it. Well...I'll print it out from my Dragon CD-ROM, the copy I have here is so mildewy it is taking me a lot longer to get through it. Anyway, this article really is timeless advice especially when it comes to the second draft. Some of the advice is no longer needed. For example how to space in for margins on a typewriter or the merits of a hand-written vs. typed manuscript. Also, and sadly, the magazines he suggests submitting to are all gone.
Merle M. Rasmussen is next with his The Rasmussen Files. He has a set of Top Secret reactions and rule additions. The growing interest in computers is visible here with the new Technical Bureau. These days it is hard to imagine any sort of clandestine espionage without the back of data, technology and computers. Not to mention drones and satellites. But this is 1981 and all that stuff, while not really new, was getting more and more public notice.
The article is split by an ad that makes me both happy and a little sad.
At least 10 of those addresses are within reasonable driving distances from me now. One is within walking distance, and none of them are open today. Don't get me wrong, I am really spoiled with the game stores I have by me now including Games Plus, which would not get on to this list till 1982.
Shameless Plug: If there is something you need and you don't have a local game store Games Plus is taking orders and shipping all over the world.
Len Lakofka's Leomund's Tiny Hut covers Missle Fire and the Archer sub-class. I have always liked archers and outside of the ranger I never found a good one. This article has some good adjustments to missile fire and the size of the target; something that has been incorporated into D&D since 3rd edition. Again, Len treats us to a full class here that can be used as an NPC class or a PC one. Looking it over I am thoughtful of the new Pathfinder 2nd version of the Fighter and Ranger that both have an Archer option. Not identical obviously, but likely drawn from the same sources of inspiration. I will say it is enough to have me reading the PF2 rules a lot this past week.
Next, we get to the big feature of this issue, The Dragon Dungeon Design Kit.
Much to my chagrin, the cardboard pages that were in this issue are gone. Checking them out on my CD-ROM pdfs I see they are essential Dungeon Tiles. They even look like 5' squares in most cases.
Kinda wish I had these. I could use them in a game now and my kids would get all excited about using some "real old school material." Maybe I'll print them out.
We get an installment of the Minarian Legends from Glenn Rahman for the Divine Right game. This time covering The History of Dwarves. Divine Right pre-dates my involvement in the hobby, though I do know about it. I had a chance to pick up a copy cheap, but never did it. If I find one I might grab it just to see what it was all about. This history could be used in any game to be honest, but it feels tied to the world it is from to be of use to me. Still, maybe I'll come back to this if I need to add on to my dwarfs a bit.
Some ads. A Squad Leader scenario. More ads.
Electronic Eye from Mark Herro has some dice rolling programs for programable calculators and the new "mini" computers, the Sinclair ZX-80 and the Radio Shack’s “Pocket” TRS-80. If you are reading this post on your phone, then congratulations, you are in a future that Mark Herro dreamed about.
Daniel Maxfield has more tips for Bunnies & Burrows in Hop, Hop, Hooray!
In what I think is a rarity for ANY era of Dragon, Roger Moore (busy guy this edition) has an article on the advantages of playing evil in How to have a good time being evil.
Reviews for Bloodtree Rebellion, Space Marines, and Grail Quest follow.
Letters from Out on a Limb continue with someone complaining that the last adventure was too "childish." I guess something do never change.
Ah..now here is some fun stuff. Dragon's Bestiary covers some new monsters. The Skyzorr’n, a race of humanoid insect beings. Sand Lizard, a desert lizard (I can use these now!). The Dust Devil, a combined earth and air elemental (also could use this) and all three have art by the great Bill Willingham.
Some comics in Dragon's Mirth. There is an installment of Finneous Fingers. Plus The Story of Jasmine from Darlene, better known as the artist that gave us the World of Greyhawk map. I know nothing of this series and have no idea if it kept going or not, but it was very different than the fare at the time. I just checked my Issue #43 and there is an entry there as well. A bit more research has turned up quite bit more. It ran for 12 issues starting in #37. Now I am curious, maybe I'll do a special This Old Dragon Feature on it!
A fun trip down memory lane again. I some respects quite literal, since in the process of working on this I drove by some of the places advertised as having been game stores and are now gone.
Hopefully, I can do some more of these.